Special schools should continue to have shorter teaching weeks if they feel pupils benefit, the Forum on Scottish Education has advised the Executive.
Ministers are consulting about bringing special schools into line with mainstream hours, which run to five more a week, but the forum believes there is "no case" for a blanket extension.
It accepts the views of the Riddell committee, endorsed by ministers, that there is an institutional bias against some children who could benefit from the longer week. "We do not believe that this shorter teaching week is appropriate for all non-integrated SEN pupils. There are bound to be some, perhaps many, who would benefit from more teaching time within school," it says.
However, moving all schools to longer hours would be "actively disadvantageous" to many. It would also "adversely affect" working conditions for teachers in special schools and units. P> The forum states: "The shorter class contact time that they experience in special education enables them to undertake many important functions such as preparation of reports on individual pupils and attendance at case conferences. It is our view that a blanket extension of teaching hours would require the appointment of more staff andor would add to the stress suffered by teachers already in post."
It advocates variable lengths of teaching day or week for pupils with differing special needs, although it accepts that transport arrangements are an obvious difficulty. Primary and secondary special schools should be open the same number of hours as mainstream schools but "there should be no expectation that all pupils should be taught in school for all of those hours".
SENpupils in mainstream already have flexible arrangements. "Such flexibility should become universal," it says.